Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous" by Joan Nathan

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous, Published 2010.
The title refers to three major types of Jewish cooking in France:
Quiche for traditional French food, Kugel for Eastern European
Jewish food, and Couscous for the cuisine of North African Jews.
When Joan Nathan's book on the food of the Jews of France was published, I was especially interested in her history of diverse Jewish communities in Paris, Alsace, and the South of France and how they got there. Their sufferings during World War II, as she related their stories, seemed very far away.

Very sadly, now when I think of Jewish food in France I think not only of the cuisines described in Joan Nathan's book, but also of the kosher supermarket in Paris where Jews were murdered in January, 2015 -- merely for being Jewish. Though the nightmare destructiveness of the Holocaust is not being repeated, I fear that the tragedy of European Jews is far from finished.

History can make me so sad. Nothing can make up for mass murders and other injustices that have occurred in the past. Nevertheless, I love Joan Nathan's culinary history of the many French-Jewish communities, which include:
  • European-French Jews who lived there as early as Roman times, especially those who lived in Alsace and Provence;
  • Sephardic Jews who came from Spain during centuries of persecution;
  • Eastern European Jews who came to Paris from Poland and other places in response to many persecutions in the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as seeking a more prosperous life; and
  • North African Jews who were forced out of their long-term homelands by events in the 1950s and 1960s and have settled in many French cities.
Each group possessed distinctive cuisines. While preserving their traditions and religious laws regarding kosher foods, they often adopted French recipes and local ingredients as well. They also introduced some of their own recipes and preparations into French cuisine. Joan Nathan brings all these food ways to life with a variety of interviews, historic background, vivid photographs and art reproductions, and above all descriptions of French-Jewish bakeries, spice shops, groceries, butcher shops, wineries, farms, restaurants, and home kitchens.

Although I have owned this book for several years, I just finally decided to try some of the recipes, starting with this one: 

Cassolita: a Moroccan squash dish with caramelized onions -- trying it is an extension of my
current interest in Moroccan foods and spices.
My Cassolita in progress.
On the table, garnished with almonds and flat-leaf parsley and ready to eat with couscous (in covered dish).
Cookbook Wednesday, sponsored by Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations, is an inspiration for this post.


Marjie said...

It looks really good. I love adding almonds to veggie dishes for unexpected crunch!

Charlie Louie said...

I would love to read that cookbook. The recipes would have a rich history, I'm sure. I'm appalled at the persecution Jews have suffered through the years and centuries. It's very unjust. That's a beautiful couscous xx